US Blockade Choking Cuba

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 06 Nov 2018 11:37:51

By OLLIE HOPKINS,

 

Bahamas Ambassador Sheila Carey expressed the Caribbean Community’s “unequivocal opposition” to the blockade, which is estimated to have cost Cuba $933 billion (£718 billion) over the past six decades. She warned the US that its policy was disapproved of worldwide.

 

THE United Nations voted 189-2 to condemn the illegal United States blockade of Cuba on November 1. Only Israel backed the US in opposing the resolution calling for an end to the 60-year-old measure aimed at isolating and suffocating the Cuban Revolution. The two countries were the only ones to oppose it last year as well.


Every year, the UN General Assembly overwhelmingly censures the US for its crippling economic and financial embargo on the socialist island. This year’s vote was originally due on October 31, but the Donald Trump administration delayed it by 24 hours by forcing votes on a series of wrecking amendments first. On behalf of the Group of 77 — an umbrella for 135 developing countries including China — Egyptian ambassador to the UN Mohamed Edrees said he regretted increased US hostility to Cuba under President Donald Trump.


Easing of travel restrictions and money transfers to Cuba under Trump’s predecessor Barack Obama had been “positive steps ... in the right direction,” he said, but Washington’s new policy was “aimed at strengthening the embargo against Cuba.” This is a setback in the process of achieving normalised relations.” The G77 appealed to the international community to step up its efforts to have the blockade lifted.


Bahamas Ambassador Sheila Carey expressed the Caribbean Community’s “unequivocal opposition” to the blockade, which is estimated to have cost Cuba $933 billion (£718 billion) over the past six decades. She warned the US that its policy was disapproved of worldwide. South Africa’s Jerry Matjila said the blockade had caused “immeasurable damage to the development of the people of Cuba and remains, as ever before, unjustified.”


Cuba’s resolution, necessity of ending the economic, commercial and financial embargo imposed by the United States of America against Cuba, has been presented annually to the UN body since 1992 and overwhelmingly passed each year. In 2017, 191 countries, including Britain, voted in favour of the Cuban resolution, with only the US and Israel voting against. A similar result is expected this year.


The Cuba Solidarity Campaign (CSC) has once again written to the British Government urging it to continue to vote in support of ending the blockade which not only harms the people of Cuba but also impacts our own country. In advance of the vote, Cuba has published its report that summarises the blockade’s impact, where it states that the nearly six-decade-old blockade has cost the Cuban economy over a staggering $933 billion. The report outlines in detail the blockade’s brutal impact on health, education, food, sport, culture and development over the last year.


There are hundreds of examples, including cases where Cuba has been unable to obtain crucial aircraft safety components, chemotherapy drugs for malignant brain tumours and medical equipment that can help diagnose cancers. The extraterritorial impact around the world is also analysed, including the case of the Open University (OU) which banned Cuban students from applying to study there before a huge campaign by CSC, trade unions, parliamentarians and supporters forced the OU to reverse its discriminatory policy last year.


The report also includes elements of the US policy’s impact on special needs schools provisions, specifically the difficulty in purchasing Braille machines that are manufactured and sold in the US. CSC and the National Education Union (NUT section), have worked together to beat the blockade by sending dozens of Braille machines to schools across the island over the two years. This week, the NEU/NUT third annual October half-term delegation of teachers to Cuba has taken over eight more Braille machines with them to support children’s learning at the Abel Santamaria School for visually impaired children.


The banking problem faced by the Cuban embassy in London over the last 12 months is also included in the report, with HSBC, Barclays and NatWest all temporarily freezing the embassy’s accounts in 2017. CSC has also felt the impact of the blockade first-hand, when the Co-operative Bank unilaterally closed our account in 2015, citing fear of US fines enforced by the Office of foreign Asset Control (OFAC).


British and overseas banks have paid huge multimillion-pound OFAC fines due to blockade legislation in previous years. It is incredible that 49 international companies paid fines totalling over $14 billion during the eight years of Barack Obama’s presidency alone. This means that British companies are being fined by the US for a blockade policy that is opposed by the British Government. The extraterritorial tentacles of the US blockade policies are far-reaching and an affront to British sovereignty.


Cuba describes the blockade as “the most unfair, severe and extended system of unilateral sanctions ever applied against any country” in its report and highlights how the Trump administration “has intensified” the policy that “continues to be applied with all rigour.” Trump’s new Cuba policy, announced at a rally in Miami in June 2017, has all but closed the US embassy in Havana, made travel and trade increasingly difficult and blacklisted more Cuban State companies.


His new US measures have led to a 43 per cent decrease in the number of US visitors to Cuba, equivalent to 51,677 fewer travellers than in the same period in 2017, according to the UN report. Dozens of banks across the world have ended their relations with Cuba or foreign companies with ties to Cuba, including preventing Cuban residents abroad from making transfers home — all damaging the Cuban economy further. The annual vote at the UN provides a timely reminder to revisit the question as to why the blockade exists in the first place.


The US introduced the blockade to cause, in the words of the State Department, “hunger, desperation and the overthrowing of the Government.” The US should put an end to the economic warfare against Cuba immediately and the British Government should do more to oppose the US extraterritorial policies, defend UK sovereignty and support British companies and individuals that wish to trade with and travel to Cuba.